This text is reproduced with permission by its author, AndrĂ¡s Riedlmayer, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University

Like many of us, I’ve been following news coverage of the dramatic events in Egypt in recent days. As crowds of protesters stormed and set fire to the headquarters building of Egypt’s ruling party in downtown Cairo and police vanished from the streets, a group of ordinary Egyptians linked arms and formed a human chain around the adjactent Egyptian Museum (Egypt’s national museum) to protect the museum and its treasures from potential looters and provocateurs

For a news agency photo of this extraordinary civic action, see —

Unfortunately, two looters apparently got into the Egyptian Museum building through the roof, ransacked the museum shop and then went to work in the museum’s galleries. According to reports the two thieves were caught before they could make their getaway, but they evidently smashed some of the exhibits and display cases and took some of the museum objects on display; they also ripped off the heads of two mummies.

Writing on her blog “The Eloquent Peasant,” Egyptologist Margaret Maitland used video footage showing the damage — recorded by the online news network Al Jazeera — and compared it with published and unpublished photographs of objects from the Egyptian Museum to identify exactly what was broken or stolen. It turns out the damage was more serious than was initially thought. You can read her blog entry here:

Statues of Tutankhamun damaged/stolen from the Egyptian Museum

Art libraries and their collections usually support the work of curators, teachers and academic researchers. This is an instance when the books and photographs we collect can also serve forensic purposes — to help identify, record and possibly help recover and restore cultural heritage endangered by war, revolution or natural catastrophes.